Short Films and Documentaries
1961–1975 — two dozen short films and documentaries (both short and feature-length) — Drama, Comedy, or Non-Fiction
FILMS: Shorts and Documentaries | 1. Accattone | 2. Mamma Roma | 3. Gospel According to Saint Matthew | 4. Hawks and Sparrows | 5. Oedipus Rex | 6. Teorema | 7. Porcile | 8. Medea | 9. Decameron | 10. Canterbury Tales | 11. Arabian Nights | 12. Salo.
Pasolini made twelve feature films, each of which has its own page on this site. Below are notes on the half dozen other pictures that he directed, including short films, episodes in omnibus films (such as 1963’s Ro.Go.Pa.G.: Roberto Rossellini, Jean-Luc Godard, Pasolini, Ugo Gregoretti), and documentaries (including Love Meetings).
- Short Films
- Episodes in Omnibus Films
- Director Credits – Complete in Chronological Order
- Pasolini Homepage / LGBTQ+ Cinema
- “La Ricotta” (part of the anthology film Ro.Go.Pa.G.)
- “Il Padre selvaggio” [“The Savage Father” – about colonizing Africa]
Episodes in Omnibus Films
- “La Ricotta” (part of the anthology film Ro.Go.Pa.G.)
- “Che cosa sono le nuvole?” segment of Caprice Italian Style (1968)
- “The Sequence of the Paper Flower” segment of Love and Anger (1969 – anthology with five films by different directors, each dramatizing a biblical parable) – also writer – Amore e rabbia, details at https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Love_and_Anger_(film).
- “Part I” segment of La Rabbia [Rage – a two-part documentary, made with Giovanni Guareschi] (1963) – also writer, editor
- Love Meetings
- “The Walls of Sana” [documentary short] – also performer, commentary
- “Notes Towards a Film About India” [documentary short] – also writer, performer
- Notes Towards an African Orestes – also writer, cinematographer, performer
Review – Documentary: Love Meetings (Comizi d’amore)
1964 — 90 minutes, black & white, aspect ratio 1.85:1 widescreen (brief sections in 1.33:1) — Documentary
Pasolini interviews a broad cross-section of Italians about their sexual attitudes, and in the process reveals much about himself.
Pasolini’s documentary Love Meetings (Comizi d’amore, literally “debates about love”), filmed from August to November 1963, is a cinéma vérité investigation of sexual attitudes among a broad spectrum of Italians, both men and women, liberal students and traditional villagers, soccer stars and soldiers, from the industrial north to the rural south. Microphone in hand, Pasolini asks them about married life, adultery, prostitution, divorce, homosexuality, and his catch-all topic, “the problems of sex.” Despite a somewhat different culture (where divorce was illegal), and the passage of 40 years, it is surprising to find how little their views differ from those of Americans today.
The film’s greatest interest, however, lies in its fascinating, albeit indirect, portrait of Pasolini himself. In the process of interviewing dozens of subjects, he reveals much about his own attitudes towards sex and the Italian people. As his biographer, and longtime friend, Enzo Siciliano points out, the Pasolini we see onscreen accurately reflects the man, from how he wears his glasses to the way he nonchalantly drapes his jacket over his shoulder.
As you can see in my outline below (created because the DVD does not contain any chapter stops), the film is divided into four major sections, called “Ricerche” (literally, “searches”), plus a brief prologue, in which Pasolini asks children in a poor area where babies come from (responses include “flowers,” “the stork,” “Jesus and God,” and “my uncle”!) and an intriguing epilogue, in which Pasolini recites one of his poems about marriage while he presents an elliptical dramatization of the marriage of young Tonino and Graziella. The poem’s final lines are a summation of Pasolini’s own deeply held beliefs: “Silence is guilt… To your love let there be added awareness of your love.”
These sections are interspersed with Pasolini’s conversations, sometimes extremely provocative, with acclaimed author, and personal friend, Alberto Moravia (his novels Two Women and The Conformist were filmed by, respectively, De Sica and Bertolucci) and noted psychologist Cesare Musatti, or with poet Giuseppe Ungaretti, or with a group of three women journalists, including Oriana Fallaci.
The core of the film is the enormous range of people whom Pasolini interviews, and in a few instances interrogates, about their sexual attitudes, sometimes including their self-contradictions. Although the brief time alloted to each subject unfortunately resembles the “sound bites” of today’s TV news, and the periodic silences of the “Self-Censored” portions are frustrating, Pasolini still manages to reveal a great deal about who these people are. For someone with such strong beliefs about reason, and passion, you may be surprised to see that the gentlemanly Pasolini never disparages his subjects. (It should be noted that there is no lost “director’s cut:” Pasolini has said that very little material was left on the cutting room floor, and it was “very much the same.”)
To get a better idea of Pasolini’s strategy in Love Meetings, let’s take a closer look at a couple of its vignettes.
Early in the film, Pasolini interviews a group of soldiers in Rome (this is part of number 4 in the outline – also see the frame to the right: Pasolini’s face is circled in red). If you know that the box-like building in the background (the Palazzo della Civiltà del Lavoro, aka the “Square Colosseum”) was erected by Mussolini, as a self-tribute to his Fascist “ideals,” this scene with an army troop – in which Pasolini asks the men if it’s “better to be a Don Juan or a good husband” – takes on a darker resonance. But after the opening long shot, Pasolini cuts in with ever closer angles, allowing us to see the soldiers not as a faceless mass, but as individuals with a wide range of attitudes. So what began, by its framing, as a covert satire on the “military equals fascism” modulates into a more nuanced portrait of these men. Still, I wish Pasolini had done more probing into their beliefs and even their private emotional lives. Of course, the possibility of doing this on camera in the context of a group of (somewhat macho) army buddies is nil.
“Disgust or Pity”
Imagine if those were the only two options in defining your deepest sexual nature. For Pasolini, a gay man – and artist – living in an overtly homophobic society, they were.
I felt a bond of empathy with Pasolini when he questioned a broad range of people about their views on homosexuality and found that, almost universally, they felt “disgust.” A dashing young ladies’ man at a disco, typical Joes (or rather Giovannis) on the street, a train conductor, a very respectable businessman, all excoriated gay people. (Of course, if a comparable survey had been done in the U.S. at that point, the results would have been no different.) I could only imagine, again and again, what Pasolini must have felt.
Pasolini, the man with the microphone, of course never identfied himself as gay to his subjects. Hearing the responses that he did, and the vehemence with which they were uttered, you can understand why. Still, I wish he could have pressed some of his subjects at least to begin exploring the nature of their own homophobia. But this reticence made me feel, all the more deeply, for Pasolini the man. And I understood, on a more visceral level, one part of the understandable distance from his homophobic, and conformist, society which drove Pasolini the artist.
This section also underscores a central problem with the entire documentary: Pasolini asks provocative questions, but all too rarely he feels comfortable about probing his subjects, to get them to elaborate on their responses. So are we are left with a fascinating, but incomplete, portrait of a wide range of people. Like having dozens of human faces put on a statistical analysis.
Pasolini, always a reflective filmmaker, addresses this very problem. At the center of the film (number 9 in the outline) he directly poses the question, “Have I found the Real Italy?”, in a fascinating dialogue with Moravia and Musatti concerning the nature of conformism and silence in society. Reenergized, Pasolini sallies forth in what he calls “[Searches] III – The Real Italy: Where We Ask If Man Is Interested In Something Besides Merely Existing.” In fact, Pasolini does seem to scrutinize his subjects more closely in the film’s second half, when he alters his “questions on a much more practical level.” Visually, he provides an evocative emblem for his renewed quest [see the frame to the right], with the chain fence an apt metaphor for the range of frustrations he faces, social, political, perhaps even sexual.
I admire the three people whom Pasolini identifies as the three principal heroes of his documentary: The insightful and compasionate intellectuals, Moravia and Mussatti, but also a young girl, whom he meets in the tradition-bound and macho southern part of Italy, in the section “Debate on the Southern Beaches – Sex as Honor” (part of number 12 in the outline). He affectionately nicknames her “Miss Braids” because of her hair style. [See the frame directly below.]
Miss Braids seems remarkably together, emotionally and intellectually, for one so young, and especially for a girl in a region with such a deeply embedded streak of misogyny (as Love Meetings reveals all too clearly). Her speaking her mind is all the more extraordinary because she is surrounded by a crowd of adults, all of whom – male and female – have expressed extremely conservative and limiting views of women. They believe that “girls” should remain “inferior” to men, and that “Here a woman in a café alone is inconceivable.” Pasolini then turns to Miss Braids and asks, “Why do the men here want you to be sullen, shy, unlike them?” She thinks about it a moment then, looking down but with a sweet and knowing smile, says, “Because they’re jealous.” She inspires Pasolini to make one of his few direct qualititative comments, “You know, Miss Braids, the surprise in this inquiry comes from little girls like you. In the general run of conformism only you girls have ideas that are clear and courageous” (that is the full quotation; the frame given above includes only one portion of it).
“Miss Braids, ” as a quiet, and young, hero brings the film to a more human, less intellectually rarefied, level, which I found very satisfying.
Unfortunately, she has many “opposites” throughout the film. The most chilling of which appears just moments later in the same section. He appears as a happy go lucky teenage boy, surrounded by his buddies. But, with a big smile on his face and all the confidence in the world (or at least Siciliy), he reveals his obsession with “a man’s honor.” This “honor” means so much to him that, rather than having a husband “cuckolded” or a marriage end in divorce, he would prefer murder. When, giggling, he mimes the knife stabbing his imagined future wife, it is absolutely bone chilling. He says, “At least then the man’s honor will be saved.” The big crowd around him cheers. Pasolini makes no comment, and ends the section.
Above I have looked at only a couple of the dozens of vignettes. Let me note that this was the only feature-length work of Pasolini’s which I had not seen before (I spent years in the 1980s and ’90s tracking down his films at revival houses and retrospectives in New York and Los Angeles). Although Love Meetings at first seemed like a curiosity, I have found myself thinking about it a great deal since watching it (twice) last week. Especially in its, admittedly somewhat shadowy, reflection of Pasolini himself, it cast some interesting reflections on the two other simultaneous Pasolini DVD releases (of April 2003), Oedipus Rex and Porcile (aka Pigsty).
Love Meetings was important to Pasolini for reasons beyond its subject. It provided the opportunity to scour Italy, on the producer’s expense account, for his next production, one of his – and cinema’s – masterpieces, The Gospel According to [St.] Matthew. He found the locations he needed in such out of the way places as Crotone, Massafra, and Matera. And southern Italy came to stand in for the landscapes of Galilee and Judea. The Lucanian peasants he interviewed in his documentary on sex would, a few months later, find themselves in the crowd celebrating Jesus’s arrival in Jerusalem. Love Meetings also helped Pasolini increase his fluency with cinéma vérité style, which he would use in his later films, sometimes to astonishing effect, to bring the ancient world to life.
Pasolini admitted to interviewer Oswald Strick, in the revealing book Pasolini on Pasolini (1969), that Love Meetings was a financial bust, because “the public saw themselves reflected too faithfully.” General Italian audiences did not go to see it, and its limited art house run was sparsely attended, despite the first prize it won at the Locarno Film Festival. It did not export well either, since as Pasolini noted, “you’d lose the accents and the dialects, and the jokes.” Even so, it was to have a considerable impact on cinematic journalism in Italy, and became the model for many future documentaries. And now, with its DVD release, this long unavailable film can reach many more people, providing us both with a fuller portrait of the filmmaker and with a snapshot of a broad cross section of Italians at a time when their society was evolving in its attitudes towards what Pasolini insisted on calling “the problems of sex.”
Outline of the Film
Since the DVD does not contain any chapter stops, here is my own synopsis. I hope this helps you locate scenes and sequences of particular interest.
- 0:00:00 – Opening & credits sequence: Pasolini, in a poor neighborhood, asks young children where babies come from. Responses include “flowers,” “the stork,” “Jesus and God,” and “my uncle.”
- 0:04:38 – Pasolini discusses his plans for this documentary with author Alberto Moravia and psychologist Cesare Musatti, who encourage him. Moravia remarks that it will be the first work of cinéma vérité made in Italy.
- 0:06:05 – “Ricerche [Searches] I – Big Italian Style Mixed-Fry” – Part 1: Pasolini asks people on an urban street if this documentary should be made.
- 0:10:55 – Part 2: Pasolini asks an army troop to discuss the problem of machismo in Italian society.
- 0:13:33 – Part 3: Pasolini talks to rural people about how they survive in the “brutal modern industrial world,” and about their sexual attitudes. A middle-aged mother and father are unhappy with the “modern views on sex,” but resigned. Their young daughter thinks women should be equal to men. An elderly woman believes that sexuality was “more free in the old days” because many men could use women then just walk away when they became pregnant – “unlike today,” she adds.
- 0:17:17 – Part 4: Pasolini interviews a group of university students, most of whom claim that their sexuality is “not inhibited.”
- 0:22:40 – Part 5: Pasolini entitles this section “Bourgeois Catholic Values,” and in it he talks with young women on an urban street. Next, he interviews a farmer standing in a plowed field. The following section, bearing the title “In Deep South,” finds Pasolini in a small village, where he interviews a range of people. At one point, in the voice over narration he comments that “their values are primitive but intact.” The next title reads, “A Courtyard in Palermo,” where one woman talks about her desire for more freedom.
- 0:35:43 – [“Ricerche 2” – although Pasolini omits this “Ricerche” heading and simply uses the title, “Disgust or Pity”] – In this 15 minute section, Pasolini interviews people for their views on homosexuality. He begins with the poet Giuseppe Ungaretti, who is tolerant. The next section is entitled “In a Milan Dance Hall,” in which a handsome “ladies’ man” reveals his “disgust” for “perverts,” although he is followed by two young girls who feel pity for them since “they are creatures sent by God.” Pasolini next goes to a “Bar in Catanzaro” [southern Italy], where he finds more derogatory attitudes towards gay people [my phrase, not theirs]. He is then on a train, where he interviews a conductor (“they should be severely repressed” and a businessman who feels “revulsion.” Pasolini asks if the man wants to understand homosexuals. The answer is “No!”
- 0:48:12 – Pasolini talks with Moravia and Musatti about his frustration with getting people to open up for this documentary. Musatti and Moravia offer their theories about how “shocked” and hence frightened most people are by having their beliefs unsettled, hence “conformism” is widespread. Moravia offers an especially eloquent analysis of this problem, which ends the section.
- 0:51:03 – “Ricerche III – The Real Italy: Where We Ask If Man Is Interested In Something Besides Merely Existing”: Pasolini is resolved to ask more direct questions about sexual attitudes, as he again sallies forth to begin a series of new interviews, collectively entitled, “Debate [Conducted] on the Italian Beaches – Sex as Sex.” The most frequent topic is divorce. Most women and men are in favor of divorce. But when Pasolini interviews a 14 year old girl who is opposed to it, he presses her to elaborate on her answers (he almost never does that elsewhere).
- 0:56:08 – “Debate on the Milan Beaches – Sex as Hobby”: This section ends with Pasolini trying to get an old woman to examine the contradictions in her argument against legalized divorce.
- 0:59:18 – “Debate on the Southern Beaches – Sex as Honor”: He interviews a young girl, who is friendly, comfortable with herself, proud and open-minded. This section ends on a very different note, with a smiling young man advocating murder over divorce because “at least then the man’s honor will be saved.” Even more chilling is that the crowd around him cheers him on. Pasolini makes no comment.
- 1:02:54 – “Debate on the Lido – Sex as Success”: Pasolini talks with an articulate young woman who describes herself as “very shy.”
- 1:06:19 – “Debate on the Tuscan Beaches (Working Class) – Sex as Pleasure”: Pasolini talks with a beguiling woman, married 35 years, who is happy with her sex life, marriage, and life.
- 1:07:20 – “Debate on the Tuscan Beaches (Bourgeois) – Sex as Duty”: Two men, one a young bachelor and the other holding an infant son, debate the merits of the nuclear family. Pasolini next interviews a teenage boy (“Sex is base. It makes men worse than animals”) while his three friends remain silent.
- 1:12:34 – Pasolini discusses with Moravia whether “the real Italy has emerged” or whether only a partial image. Moravia believes that only half of Italy responded, the half willing to express itself. He and Pasolini speculate on the people who remained silent (the bourgeoisie), and why (the “taboo on questioning themselves” and “because they fear it will hurt them socially”).
- 1:14:43 – “Ricerche IV – From Below, From the Depths”: Pasolini interviews a broad spectrum of people on their attitudes towards prostitution. He visits a factory, a street in Naples, a group of female prostitutes, a circle of men (some of whom are afraid that outlawing prostitution will turn boys towards “bestiality”)
- 1:30:04 – Epilogue: Pasolini ends with a dramatization of the marriage of young Tonino and Graziella. For narration, he recites one of his poems which includes the lines, “silence is guilt… To your love let there be added awareness of your love.”
- Directed and Conceived by Pasolini
- Produced by Alfredo Bini
- Cinematography by Ennio Guarnieri & Tonino Delli Colli
- Edited by Nino Baragli
- Pasolini as himself – the interviewer & commentator
- Lello Bersani as the speaker
- Alberto Moravia as himself
- Cesare Musatti as himself
Water Bearer Films has released a DVD with good image and sound from the best available elements, although it should be noted that this documentary was originally shot in 16 mm and then blown up to 35 mm (which explains why it is sometimes quite grainy). The DVD case states, “Prints made available through the co-operation of the Pier Paolo Pasolini Foundation, Rome.”
Why No Chapter Stops? I checked with the DVD’s distributor, Water Bearer, about why there are are no chapters, i.e., the entire film is presented in one continuous track. This was a condition made by the Pasolini Foundation, which controls the rights to the film, to encourage viewers to watch it in its entirety. (The only other filmmaker who insists on his DVDs being released without chapters is David Lynch.) I certainly understand and respect the Pasolini Foundation’s decision, but you are welcome to refer to my outline of the film however you wish. And chapter stops or not, we owe a considerable debt of gratitude to Water Bearer Films (for releasing this important part of Pasolini’s cinematic legacy. For the record, most of Water Bearer Films’s other releases do contain chapter stops.
- Original theatrical release aspect ratio of 1.85:1, with some brief sections in 1.33:1
- Original mono soundtrack
- Never before seen 30 minute documentary on the life and works of Pasolini
- $29.95 suggested retail
There are currently several Pasolini video releases, to own (on DVD and Blu-ray), rent, stream, or borrow from your library, as well as several books about Pasolini. Resources coming soon.
Reviewed Month xx, 200x / Revised January 29, 2021